Two year battle continues for Co-op miners
|These children frolic in the water at the solidarity picnic at Huntington Lake.|
Co-op miners celebrated two years of a fight for equal rights and justice at a solidarity picnic on Aug. 21 held at Huntington Lake State Park. Supporters from around the country gathered to lend their support to the Co-op miners in their fight to organize a union at the CW Mining Company mine in Bear Canyon.
A barbeque was held and speakers talked to the group. T-shirts were also on sale and a raffle was held to help raise funds for those still unemployed. Currently the National Labor Relations Board has not counted the votes to determine if the vote for or against UMWA representation passed or not. This vote was held in December 2004. Lawsuits are pending on both sides dealing with which votes should be allowed in the tally. UMWA contends that any votes by family members at the mine should not be counted.
Raymond Sisneros is a retired UMWA worker from Price. He has been involved for the past two years as the Co-op miners have struggled with the CW Mining Company in labor disputes. He said as a union miner he has enjoyed good wages and benefits like vacations and good medical care. He would like to see all the mines in the Emery and Carbon county areas join the union. He spent time on the picket line in support of the miners.
Bill Estrada, one of the original striking miners, served as the interpreter at the event. Juan Salazar, also a miner who has been involved in the fight since the beginning welcomed the crowd. He thanked the people who had traveled long distances to be at the two year celebration of the fight.
Two longshoreman from California spoke at the rally. They quoted the AFL-CIO in saying that the, "Co-op miners aren't joining the labor movement, they are leading it."
Mark Downs said, "We salute you in your fight and encourage the NLRB to count the votes."
Estrada read some letters of support from Washington State labor union leaders. Estrada read a letter from Ed Fire of Ohio who is a retired miner. Fire has been sending letters and donations since the fight began two years ago. Estrada said, "People like Ed are the heart of our support."
Jose Sandoval came to the event from California. He is a teamster who helped organize workers at Avis car rentals. "You need to continue to work as a group and fight for rights as human beings and win the respect you deserve," said Sandoval.
Luis Sanchez from San Francisco is a carpenter who attended in support of the miners. He told them to look ahead to the results of what they will gain. The benefits of workers who have fought before and who will fight after are worthwhile. The workers create the wealth and the carpenters have made good gains in their fights and are available to help the miners in their fight and they have the support of the carpenters.
Mike Dalpiaz, vice-president of UMWA in the west which includes mines throughout the western United States, was on hand at the rally. Dalpiaz thanked everyone for coming. He said the UMWA doesn't start a project unless they can finish it, no matter how long it takes. He thanked all of the locals for their support of the struggle. "I can't wait to have a total victory party," said Dalpiaz.
|Bob Butero, regional director of the UMWA speaks and Bill Estrada, interprets for the audience.|
Bob Butero, regional UMWA director, remarked on the great support the Co-op miners have received. He said that continued support will be greatly appreciated. He said it is important to turn around the problem and that labor disputes are worldwide problems and the labor movement will help turn it around. "There has been a good demonstration of that with the Co-op miners," said Butero. Butero said that the NLRB has been favorable to the Co-op miners in the past. He said the NLRB has met with the CW Mining Company to ask them how they are going to resolve the labor dispute problems.
"The NLRB is going to rule in favor of the Co-op miners, that they were illegally fired last December. We won't win through the NLRB, but we will win on the ground. People will understand that strength and unity will win for the UMWA. We are trying to reach the company. We want to put miners back to work under a UMWA contract. In the near future the NLRB should be counting the remainder of the ballots which have not been counted. Out of 137 ballots only seven ballots were not challenged. The UMWA challenged 105 of the ballots," said Butero.
When those ballots were counted the percentage was 5-2 in favor of the company union. But, when 30 more ballots that should be counted are in favor of the UMWA as the certified bargaining partner of the Co-op miners, that will turn those results around, speculated Butero.
Butero pointed out they are trying to work with the CW Mining Company to convince them that signing a UMWA contract will help mean a bigger profit for the company. Butero pointed out that if Co-op fails to work things out, that UMWA will have a serious discussion with PacifiCorp. "We hope within a short time we'll be able to invite you back for a total victory celebration," said Butero.
Tain Curtis, from Deer Creek Mine, spoke to the group. He said it is a privilege to be able to have a union and the freedom to air grievances. They are fortunate at Deer Creek to have a good working relationship. Curtis said he works for his family and wants to help the Co-op miners to be able to help their families more. Better working conditions and higher pay will enable the miners to better provide for their families.
Estrada spoke next, he thanked all the supporters for their help over the past two years. He thanked George Nichols for gathering food in Salt Lake and bringing it to the miners the past two years.
Estrada said they will continue to fight and it is an important labor battle to a region that lives on coal mines. "There are only two union mines in the area, Deer Creek and Consol. Other miners are interested in the union and truck drivers as well. We hope others will be inspired to do the same, there are fights everywhere and we're part of it; fighting for the future of the union. The union is not going down. There is hope, now is the time to do it. Coal prices are up and mines are hiring. In that context, the fight falls in the right place. Some of the Co-op miners are now working in other mines and they need to keep talking about why we need the union."
Estrada said at CW Mining their production is down and the company is facing problems. "We need the support of other workers and organizations. We need to stick together for a victory.
Estrada said the CW Mining is fighting back too and they have a lawsuit pending against the striking miners and many newspapers that have run stories about the striking miners. The lawsuit is for defamation of character of the company by the newspapers and the miners.
Estrada said if the newspapers win it will be a boost for the miners and puts the company in a weaker position. The UMWA has hired lawyers to defend the miners against the lawsuit.
Estrada said that many from far away have supported the fight as well as local people and that it will take the support of all to win the fight.